In our age of electronics and hectic lifestyle, almost everyone is sleep deprived. Lack of enough quality sleep is a major problem that I observe in families today. Sleep is not only important to our bodies, it is equally important for our minds and emotions. Sleep helps us manage stress, maintain a healthy weight and many other essential aspects of our total well-being. For children, it is essential for brain development and growth. Lack of sleep can also play a role in many behavior issues that children face at home and at school, such as difficulty in managing emotions, controlling the body and impulses, ability to stay focused and to perform well, and ability in getting along with others.
I often recommend the book “Sleepless in America” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka because it offers many helpful suggestions. For example, let’s examine the question of how much sleep do we need? According to Ms. Kurcinka, preschoolers need at least 12 hours of sleep, school-aged children need at least 10 hours of sleep and adolescents need at least 9.24 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Notice that these are all minimums – your child may need more.
How do we get this sleep? Managing our time is essential! Sleep must be a priority. Everyone needs to slowly wind down over the evening. Plan out what needs to be done to prepare for the next day so there is no late-night rushing around. Eliminate electronics, TV and even strong overhead light-ing to enable the body to naturally slow down. Calming routines such as a bath or reading a book are all beneficial. Reduce using nightlights or other lights at night since the body needs to experience dark-ness to regulate hormones. Make sure bedrooms are truly comfortable places to sleep – free of clutter and distractions or anything that might not contribute to a relaxing atmosphere.
It might be hard to make sleep a priority at first, but any effort toward more and better sleep will be a reward in itself. Everyone will be rested, healthier and ready for life!
Marla Nargundkar is an AMI Montessori Guide at Tree of Life Montessori School in Atlanta, GA